mcdonalds ireland tourIreland…  Even speaking its name calls forth images of magic, myth, saints, scholars and a countryside almost too beautiful to be true. 

The Celtic nature of warmth and welcome still prevails here and simply has to be experienced to be understood.

Includes:

– 10 nights accommodations at hotels listed below
– Hotel service charges and VAT taxes
– Breakfast every day
– 5 dinners at your hotels as per itinerary
– PLUS Medieval dinner & entertainment at the Bunratty Castle
– PLUS Traditional dinner and entertainment in Dublin at the Merry Ploughboy
– Airport transfers
– A modern large van for your itinerary that will accommodate 6 with luggage
– A driver/guide to accompanying you along the way
– Sightseeing as per itinerary with visits to: Trinity College, Bunratty Folk Park, Powerscourt House & Gardens, Glendalough, King John’s Castle, Kilkenny Castle, Kylemore Abbey, Cliffs of Moher, Blasket Islands Centre, Skellig Visitor Centre, English Market and Waterford Medieval Museum
– Sightseeing entrance fees
– Local guides for sightseeing in Dublin and for the Kilkenny walking tour

Itinerary

Day 1, July 15: Depart USA
Depart the USA the evening for your flights to Ireland

Day 2 July 16: Welcome to Ireland. Arrival Shannon and onto Galway (D)
cliffs of moher
Arrive at Shannon Airport where you will meet your driver and guide and transfer to the Galway region. En-route visit the Cliffs of Moher. Situated on the Atlantic Ocean and bordering the Burren Area, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most spectacular sights. Standing 700 feet above the ground at their highest point and 5 miles long, the Cliffs boast one of the most amazing views in Ireland. On a clear day, the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay as well as the valleys and hills of Connemara. To the south of the cliffs is Hag’s Head, once the site of a castle. The cliffs reach their highest point just north of O’ Brien’s Tower. Cornelius O’ Brien, a descendant of Brian Boru (he who defeated the Vikings in battle), built a tower at the cliffs in order to enjoy some tea with his lady friends. The Tower is adjacent to the sea stack, Breanan Mór, which stands over 70 metres above the foaming waves and is home to some of the Burren’s wildlife. Atlantic Edge is the exciting new interpretive centre at the Cliffs of Moher and is built into the natural landscape. The centre is a huge domed cave that contains images, exhibits, displays & experiences exploring different elements of the mighty Cliffs of Moher: Ocean, Rock, Nature and Man.Then journey through The Burren. The Burren landscape covers over 150 square kilometres and is one of Ireland’s 6 National Parks. The region is visually similar to a moonscape, yet shelters a mixture of flora and archaeological sites which have attracted visitors for centuries. Man came here over 6000 years ago, cleared the forests and set in motion soil erosion. Centuries of weathering has produced a terrain of fissured limestone pavements, disappearing lakes, terraced mountains, and underground cave systems. For millennia man has left his mark, megalithic tombs and cooking sites litter the pavements, while medieval tower-houses and churches guard the valleys. Today man is absent from most of the upland, leaving behind ancient field systems, routeways and placenames. Today’s visitors to the Burren will find Arctic, Alpine and Mediterranean plants growing together. Overnight and dinner at your hotel in Galway.

Day 3: July 17: In Galway – Excursion to Conanemara (B/D)
kylemore abbeyToday we explore Connnemara. Connemara, is a land of lakes and rivers, bogs and mountains. A land of small villages where Gaelic is still the spoken language and where little has changed since the beginning of time. It is without a doubt the wildest and the most romantic part of Ireland. Connemara is a vast peninsula bordered by the arid and rocky coastline of Galway Bay in the south – a land characteristic for its stone walls and thatched cottages. On its northern shore the land is harsher and more secret, with spectacular views of the ocean and the beautiful fjord of Killary Harbour, as well as the steep mountains overlooking numerous lakes and large bog areas. Connemara is a real paradise for nature lovers and those in search of strong emotions. Continue to the Kylemore Abbey, stunningly located in the Kylemore Pass in Connemara. Mitchell Henry built the House in 1868, after having spent his honeymoon in the area. The architecture is best described as neo-gothic and the house still displays all the characteristics of that period. One of Kylemore Abbey’s most famous features is its miniature cathedral, built in 1870 and known locally as the Gothic church. Today, the abbey is home to the Irish order of Benedictine nuns. They established a private school for young girls, which was the renowned Kylemore Abbey International School which eventually closed in 2010. Return to Galway for free time in the city. Overnight and dinner at your hotel in Galway.

Day: July 18: To Limerick (B/D)
bunratty folk parkThis morning we depart Galway and journey to Limerick. En-route we visit Bunratty Folk Park and the Bunratty Castle, one of the most complete and authentic medieval castles in Ireland. Built in 1425 and plundered on many occasions, it was authentically restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendour and now contains mainly 15th and 16th century furnishings and tapestries capturing the mood and the style of the times. Within the grounds of Bunratty Castle is Bunratty Folk Park where 19th century life is vividly recreated. Set on 26 acres, the impressive park features over 30 buildings in a ‘living’ village and rural setting. Meet and chat with the Bean an Ti (Woman of the House) and various street characters including the Policeman and Schoolteacher. Enjoy the tastes, scents, sights and sounds of this enchanting place as you stroll from house to house or around the charming village complete with school, post office, doctor’s house, hardware shop, printers and of course the pub! On arrival in Limerick we will visit King John’s Castle, situated on ‘King’s Island’ in the heart of medieval Limerick city. The Castle overlooks the majestic river Shannon. It was built between 1200 and 1210 and was repaired and extended many times in the following centuries. The interpretative centre at the Castle contains an imaginative historical exhibition which tells its story. Archaeological excavations have revealed pre-Norman settlements and evidence from the traumatic siege of 1642. The courtyard and the Castle display some of the trades and traditions of the 16th Century. The Castle offers panoramic views of Limerick City and the surrounding countryside. The sights, scenes and sounds of the Castle and its environs all combine to recreate the atmosphere of the era. This evening enjoy we will enjoy a medieval dinner and entertainment at Bunratty Castle. Overnight in Limerick.

Day 5: July 19: To Killarney and the Dingle Peninsula (B/D)
After breakfast we journey to Tralee via the Dingle Peninsula. Some of the finest coastal scenery to be seen in Ireland can be found in West Kerry, on the Dingle Peninsula, the most northern of the Kerry Peninsulas. This peninsula is famous for its Celtic, pre-Christian monuments and Christian churches. It is also a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area, where the Irish language and traditional ways of life are preserved. Dingle town itself is a thriving fishing town and offers plenty of opportunity for shopping or simply savoring the atmosphere of a typical Irish country town with its plentiful pubs, narrow streets and busy harbor. The road around the Peninsula is truly spectacular. It passes through a chain of mountains, called Slieve Mish. From Inch, a long beach bordered by dunes and made famous by David Lean’s movie “Ryan’s daughter,” admire the Iveragh Peninsula and Rossbeigh Beach. From Dingle, drive around the coast to Slea Head. Here the blue of the marine landscape surrounds the Blasket Islands, deserted since 1953. In the distance are the two rocky Skellig islands, where the ruins of an early Christian Monastery can be found. The Dingle Peninsula will charm you with its villages painted in bright colours and will bewitch you with the dramatic beauty of its landscapes. We will have some free time in Dingle town before we continue with a visit to the Blasket Islands Centre. The Blasket Centre on the mainland in Dún Chaoin on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula is a fascinating heritage centre/museum honouring the unique community who lived on the remote Blasket Islands until their evacuation in 1953. The Blasket Centre tells the story of island life, subsistence fishing and farming, traditional life including modes of work and transport, home life, housing and entertainment. The Centre details the community’s struggle for existence, their language and culture, and the extraordinary literary legacy they left behind – classics such as ‘The Islandman’, ‘Twenty Years A-Growing’ and ‘Peig’. Their story is told using a variety of means – exhibitons, interactive displays, artefacts, audio visual presentations and artworks. Continue to Killarney for our overnight and dinner at our hotel.

Day 6: July 20: In Killarney – Excursion to the Ring of Kerry (B)
Skellig Michael
Today we will spend the day touring the Ring of Kerry, starting with a visit of the Skellig Visitor Experience. The Skellig Experience is a heritage centre dedicated to life on the Skellig islands and was developed by Cork Kerry Tourism in 1992 to make the four treasures of the off shore Skellig Islands more easily understood by all. The Skellig Islands are found 7 miles off the coast of Kerry. The larger island, Skellig Michael, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was a monastic site occupied from the 6th until the 12th century. The second Island is renowned as a bird sanctuary and houses a colony of 20,000 pairs of breeding gannets, the second largest breeding colony in the world. The exhibition building is a purpose built visitor centre designed to be rugged in feeling and finishes, to reflect the experience which will be undertaken by visitors. The use of concrete vaults with grass topping is designed to echo the wild quality of the south west of Ireland and to blend in with the surrounding hills. The Skellig Experience, through re-creations and models allows the visitor study the work and the lives of the Skellig monks of the early Christian period. It recounts their activities, their endurance and their dedication in gaining a foothold on a tiny, inhospitable, offshore island and creating a community there. The exhibition has four themes: the history and archaeology of Skellig Michael’s early Christian monastery; the sea birds, their habitat, their world-wide travels; the lighthouses which have given 161 years of service to mariners; the underwater Skellig, which has colour and magic equal to any sea in the world. The Exhibition Centre has an 80 seat auditorium where a 14 minute film presentation, “An Island On The Edge Of The World” takes visitors to the magical place Skellig Michael. For lovers of wildlife, the Skellig Experience has also re-created a Skellig sea cliff with life-sized models and related presentations enabling the visitor to get to know, by sight and sound, the life and times of seabirds on Skellig. Return to Killarney for some free time to explore the town. And have dinner on our own at one of the great local restaurants.

Day 7: July 21: To Cork, the Blarney Stone & Waterford (B/D)
Depart Kerry early this morning and journey first to Cork to have a chance to “Kiss the Blarney Stone” at Blarney Castle followed by a visit to Cork’s English Market along the way. Situated in the heart of Cork City, the English Market is a roofed food market and has been trading since 1788. Developed and still owned by Cork City Council, the Market is one of the oldest municipal markets of its kind in the world. The trading stalls are held under 21 year leases from the City Council. Continue to Waterford and on arrival visit the Waterford Medieval Museum, situated between Cathedral Square and the Bishop’s Palace in the heart of the Viking Triangle, in the city centre. The curved façade of the warm butter-coloured stone building draws in the visitor. The eye-catching giant sculpture on the gable was inspired by a tiny 13th century belt mount found in Waterford.  The museum galleries feature some of the great treasures.There is also a resident artist who performs copper-wheel engraving on glass, keeping alive the great tradition of glass craftsmanship in Waterford. We conclude our long day with a visit to the House of Waterford Crystal. Overnight and dinner at our hotel in Waterford.

Day 8: July 22: In Waterford – Excursion to Kilkenny: (B/D)
kilkennyToday we will visit Kilkenny and enjoy a walking tour with a local guide. Capital of County Kilkenny, the town of Kilkenny is often referred to as “the Marble City.” It is the most interesting and best preserved of the medieval Irish cities. It owes its immense charm to the various impressive historical monuments. A medieval city of 24,000 people it is characterised by many beautifully restored buildings and winding slipways – it is small and compact, yet full of fascinating historical buildings and contemporary shops, design galleries and restaurants. The ancient city of Kilkenny was named after a 6th century monk St Canice. A native of the area, St Canice built a monastic enclave on the site where today we find the beautifully restored 13th St Canice’s Cathedral. The town is dominated by 12th century Kilkenny Castle, built by the Normans on their arrival in this part of Ireland. Highlight will be a visit to the Kilkenny Castle. One of the most instantly recognised buildings in Ireland, Kilkenny Castle has been an important site since it was built by the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century. The castle has been remodelled in Victorian times and set in extensive parklands which was the principal seat of the Butler family, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormonde.  Due to major restoration works, the central block now includes a library, drawing room, and bedrooms decorated in 1830s splendor, as well as the beautiful Long Gallery. A suite of former servant’s rooms is now the Butler Art Gallery, which mounts frequently changing exhibitions of contemporary art. The Parade Tower is the Castle’s conference venue. Return to Waterford.in the afternoon. Overnight and dinner at our hotel in Waterford.

Day 9: July 23: To the Wicklow Mountains and Dublin (B)
Powerscourt gardenAfter breakfast, we head to Dublin visiting the Wicklow Mountains along the way. County Wicklow is known as “the Garden of Ireland.” it is home to Powerscourt, Mount Usher and Russborough, to name a few of its many houses and gardens. This region features all the various types of scenery that makes Ireland so beautiful. The coastline is bordered by charming sea resorts such as Bray or Greystones. In the heart of its gentle and rounded hills are nestled Enniskerry and Avoca, both very picturesque villages. Discover its romantic and quiet beauty, the deserted mounts where nothing but heather grows, the small forests and the lush prairies illuminated by yellow gorse in spring. We will visit Powerscourt House & Gardens that are situated at the foot of the Wicklow mountains. Powerscourt is one of the most beautiful estates in Ireland. Powerscourt Gardens are a magnificent example of aristocratic gardens from the 19th century. The gardens were initiated around 1745 and restyled in the 19th century. The gardens have many features including the Triton pool with its 30 meter high fountain. To the left are American and Italian gardens, while below them is a Japanese garden. The Bamberg Gates to the walled garden are believed to come from a German Cathedral in Bamberg, Bavaria. There are many rare plants and wonderful views of the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain. Not to be missed is the pet cemetery with its headstones dedicated to the family dogs. Visit Glendalough Monastic Site and Visitor Centre This early Christian monastic site was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Set in a glaciated valley with two lakes, the monastic remains include a superb round tower, stone churches and decorated crosses. Arrival in Dublin for our overnight. Dinner on our own.

Day 10: July 24: In Dublin (B)
This morning we enjoy a Walking Tour of Dublin City Center that will take us to the principal sites, such as the elegant Georgian squares, famous for its architecture and of course its famous doors. We start off with a visit to St Patrick’s Cathedral. Built in 1192, it is one of Ireland’s largest Cathedrals made famous by its former dean Jonathan Swift, author of “Gulliver’s Travels.” Pass by Christchurch, built by the Anglo-Normans in 1172 to replace an earlier church built by the Vikings in 1038, on your way to the Phoenix Park with its many monuments including the Papal Cross. Return to the city center via the Quays, passing by the Guinness brewery and Collins Barrack, now part of the national museum, before arriving back into O’Connell Street and the city center. Then continue with a visit to Trinity College, where Thomas Burgh built the Old Library building in the 18 century. Today it houses one of Ireland’s most illustrious books, the 9th century “Book of Kells”. Before viewing the famous book, visitors pass through an excellent exhibition based on the Book of Kells and other important books written in monasteries around Ireland. The Book of Kells is one of the “50 things to do in Europe before you die.” Continue to Christchurch Cathedral that King Sitric Silkenbeard built and Dublin’s first (wooden) church on this site in 1038. Like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, it is adorned with funeral monuments, including the reputed tomb of Strongbow, its founder and Ireland’s first Norman Conqueror. Unlike St Patrick’s, however, Christ Church possesses a crypt, which stretches under almost its entire length and much of the Cathedral’s memorabilia is displayed here. Afternoon and evening free. Overnight in Dublin.

Day 11: July 25: In Dublin (B/D)
Dublin pubA free day for independent exploration. Why not go on your own to the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, one of Europe’s largest stout producing brewery and home to the Guinness Storehouse. Opened in 1904, the Storehouse was an operational plant for fermenting and storing Guinness. Today it houses a very fine exhibition dedicated to the Guinness story. Visitors will discover what goes into the making a pint of Guinness – the ingredients, the brewing process, the time, the craft and the passion. The exhibition shows how the brew has been marketed and how it is today sold in over 150 countries. Once the tour has finished, the guest is invited to the Gravity Bar to enjoy their pint of Guinness. Regular demonstrations on the art of pulling a pint of Guinness also take place in the Storehouse. Launched on the fifth floor in 2011, “Five” at Guinness Storehouse, includes a small replica authentic Irish Bar, an 18th Century inspired Brewers Dining Hall, and a restaurant named Gilroy’s where guests enjoy a Guinness gastronomical experience driven entirely by the Irish tradition of wholesome local produce. This evening enjoy a farewell dinner and entertainment at The Merry Ploughboy Pub or similar. The Merry Ploughboys live in concert is widely regarded as the best traditional music show in Dublin and also as a must see for any visitors to Dublin city. The show is a highly entertaining performance of live traditional Irish music, song and Irish dancing. From start to finish, this is a show based on fantastic interaction between the performers and the audience. Overnight in Dublin.

Day 12: July 26: To the USA (B)
After breakfast, we will be met at the hotel and transferred to the airport for our flights home

Accommodations

Hotels or similar                      City                    Nights                 Category
Connacht Hotel                                   Galway                         2                                  3 star
The George Hotel                               Limerick                       1                                  4 star
Hotel Killarney                                   Killarney                       2                                  3 star
Fitzwilton Hotel                                 Waterford                   2                                  4 star
The Gresham                                      Dublin                          3                                  4 star


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